I was 21, my husband 24. We were pregnant with our first and just moved back from Santa Barbara, CA to my hometown where I grew up.
We have NEVER owned a home prior to this, let alone remodeled or built a home. As we were house shopping, we noticed most of our options were mainly fixers, too small, or not in the right area. After looking around, my dad threw in the idea of building and after he explained how to build a home on our own without a GC, my sweet man seized the opportunity.

We had a lump of cash available and started to look for a property. After 2 months of searching, we found what we believed to be a perfect spot. It had city water, city sewage, smack dab in the right location, and was one acre. For my golden California boy, that was plenty!

Next up was financing. Banks weren’t too eager to allow a couple in their early 20’s to build a home on their own, so that took a bit of juggling. Finally we figured it out and used our land as a down payment for the loan.

Permitting was much simpler. We went to the Charlotte City offices and filed for a Code R building permit, ourselves listed as the builders. They issued the permit no questions asked.

Now some of you might be wondering, how in the world would the city allow it just like that.

A few reasons:

First: Every stage of the building process is inspected by a code enforcement officer. EVERY LITTLE THING Y’ALL. So even if there were some mistakes, (which there were,) the inspector would catch them and would not allow us to continue until we fixed them. Only then will we pass to go onto the next stage of building. It’s also worth noting that there were multiple inspectors for different things such as electrical, HVAC, plumbing.

Second: The city likes its money. To open a permit you need to cough up a good bit. Even that is an indication that people wouldn’t do this if they were not serious about it.

Third: Before we even received our permit, we had to have our house plans re-engineered to fit code. That ensures City that the home we are building is a solid and safe structure.

The building happens in stages according to inspections. First, there is the grading, and then footings, (depending on the type of foundation you’re doing,) then rough plumbing, then foundation, then framing, and it goes on and on until everything is inspected and completed. Lucky for us, we had a few builder friends who were happy to help guide us through whatever questions we may have had.

Pouring Foundation
First Day of Framing

So what did we actually do?

That’s the beauty of a self-build. You can either do a lot of the work hands-on or you can simply hire out subcontractors to do the work for you. OBVIOUSLY, we had licensed do the electrical, HVAC, and plumbing. We also hired professionals to do our grading and foundations and framing. What we did, was the contracting, planning, designing, and some dirty work. We dealt with the workers, ordered the supplies, handled the inspections, picked out the materials, windows, and etc. We did a lot of our own trim work, laid the floors, built some doors, designed our ceilings, picked out brick and stone, and basically did everything that the workers didn’t do.

One of the best moment for me personally was the designing aspect. We chose a house plan off and reconfigured the space to fit our family in the best way possible. Once we reconfigured it, we went to the engineer to have it re-engineered and brought up to code. We then designed our own windows and chose ALL of the finishings EVERYWHERE. From framing materials to flooring and tile, to cabinets and granite, to faucets and door trim sizes, to paint color and bushes and everything in between.

Framing Design
Drywall Design
Final Design

And that’s the best part of a self build. Everything is how you like it, how you want it. (Who am I kidding, everything meaning what your budget allows, lol)

See? It’s still standing!

So how was this cheaper than buying a ready home?

First we saved on builder fees which are a hefty chunk and they should be! Builders deserve every penny of the money they get for the work they do. The headaches dealing with wayward subcontractors and picky inspectors are REAL.

Secondly, we were in charge of our budget. We chose how much to spend where. Where to splurge and where to save. We had the time to ask for multiple quotes from multiple subs, winnowing out the cheapest price at the best quality. A luxury most GC’s cannot afford. They tend to get a quote and go with it without much wiggling because well, it’s not their money. And quite frankly, builders don’t have to. They have other home’s they are building and they really don’t have the time to search for quotes from multiple subs over someone else’s home.

Would I say a self build is for everyone? No. Definitely not.

But is it for you? I don’t know. There are a few things you have to check off before you decide to self build.

  1. Will your city allow it? What loopholes will you have to jump through?
  2. Financing. While a self build does save you money, do you have enough money to start off? Do you have a bank that will be willing to finance you? Even if the bank agrees, you need to have a price sheet where everything is priced out. Once that job is completed, the bank will give the money for that project according to the price sheet you have given them earlier. Sometimes you need to pay the subs but the bank hasn’t given you the funds yet. How will you pay them?
  3. Do you have time to meet with subcontractors and inspectors? Luckily V had a very flexible outside sales job that allowed him to drive to the house when need be to meet with contractors and inspectors. If you can’t do that, then leave the build to a GC. Because we all know its not good to keep a subcontractor or inspector waiting.
  4. Do you handle stress well? I’m not going to lie, the build was stressful. Especially when you know its a process that will take a minimum of 9 months when building a custom home.
  5. Do you have a place to live while building? This is pretty self explanatory. For our first build, my folks were gracious enough to let us live in their home. For our second build Lord willing, we will be living in our fixer while building next door. But once again, this one ties back to financing and if the bank will be willing to offer a construction loan on top of an additional mortgage.

If those 5 things are checked off, then you’re good to go! Go find those plans, find your contractors, get your permits, and start building!

We enjoyed the process so much that my sweet man is now in the process of getting his GC license to continue building homes. This is not for everyone, but V and I thrive off of projects like these. It’s something we both enjoy!